Spiral galaxy in Leo

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Star-hop chart

Messier 96 is a bright galaxy in the springtime sky, near two other galaxies in the Messier catalog, M95 and M105. These are part of a group of about a dozen bright galaxies that form one of the nearest galaxy groups, about 30 million light years away.

Messier 96 is described as an asymmetrical spiral galaxy because its spiral arms and dark lanes are unevenly distributed around the center of the galaxy. Furthermore, its bright nucleus is offset from the center of the galaxy. Its diffuse outer halo is so thin that several distant background galaxies can be seen through it. The largest and most striking of these is an edge-on spiral galaxy with a very red central bulge that can be seen on the left (east) edge of the halo. It happens to be positioned so that it almost appears to be part of the outer spiral arm of M96.

Magnitude 9.2
Apparent Size 7' x 5'
Distance (light yrs) 31 million
Right Ascension 10:46.8
Declination +11 49
Field of View 29' x 22'

Image details:  Exposure times of 85 minutes luminance, and 30 minutes each of red, green, and blue, taken with an SBIG ST-8300M imager and a 14" Meade LX850 telescope at f/6.

March 2017